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Culture 2 Go 

One guy, too many girls
Some Girl(s)
Through Aug. 29 at Lowndes
Shakespeare Center
812 E. Rollins St.

Maybe it's a musty shoebox buried deep under your bed. Perhaps there's a photo album hidden on a high shelf or a folder of old files on an unassuming USB stick. Whatever the form, everyone keeps some manner of mementos from romances past. Sane people pull them out on rare occasions to reminisce, hoping to hell their current mate doesn't catch them. Too bad "Guy," the anonymous anti-hero of acid playwright Neil LaBute's 2005 anti-romantic comedy Some Girl(s), doesn't look over his ancient love letters in advance of tying the knot with his unseen fiancee.

Guy, a writer who has just published a lightly fictionalized account of his conquests, travels cross-country, reuniting with his most memorable exes (in nearly identical hotel rooms) to get "closure" on their failed relationships. Spoiler alert: Things don't go well for anyone involved.

For the Greater Orlando Actors Theatre production at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, director Paul Castenada ably guides his cast through the naturalistic stumbling of LaBute's stuttering syntax — think Mamet with slightly less profanity and even more misanthropy. Several of his players are ones I've admired (and worked with) in the past, including Corey Volence, who embraces Guy's unconscious callowness and narcissistic "nice-guy"-isms. This is the kind of Guy who can say "always" at the drop of a hat, but chokes on the words "honesty" and "fidelity." He's so self-effacing and angst-ridden, however, that we never see the natural charisma he must have needed to get so many women into bed.

Of Guy's five encounters, the first and last are the most dramatically effective. Sam (Jennifer Bonner) is his first stop; she's the hometown high-school sweetheart he jilted before the prom who still inexplicably fantasizes about abandoning her family for him. Bobbi (Olivia Horn) is the last; the great love of Guy's life and the one for whom he'd leave his bride-to-be. Both bookends boast excellent actresses who are given multidimensional characters to play.

The middle three scenes, while featuring fine performers, are more titillating than engaging. Tyler (Renee Wilson) is the chain-smoking sexpot he got "experimental" with after college; Lindsay (Leesa Halstead) is the gender studies professor with whom he had a scandalous affair; Reggie (Emily Killian) is the little sister of Guy's best friend when he was a teenager, who is now all grown up and acting out. By the time Lindsay bizarrely blackmails Guy into making a cuckold of her hubby, the proverbial shark has been jumped.

Once we wallow into child molestation — in a scene added after the show's premiere that should have stayed in a cabinet — any potential sympathy for our prick protagonist is erased, and the women become so shrilly vindictive in their victimization that they don't engender much empathy either. That's the case in most of LaBute's works, just so you know what you're getting into. Guy doesn't offer much in the way of a character arc or catharsis, so after five scenes Some Girl(s) becomes an acting exercise in repetition. This is a competent crew, but you may not want to be stuck in a hotel room with the unpleasant characters they're bringing to life.

— Seth Kubersky

Women's work
Living in the Twilight With Our
Three Selves
Playreading Aug. 22 at Lowndes Shakespeare Center

The Sunday afternoon playreading of J.D. Eames' work-in-progress, hosted by the local Women Playwrights' Initiative, is significant for both what it was and for what it was not.

The reading was the prize for Kentucky-based Eames, whose Living in the Twilight With Our Three Selves was chosen as the winner in WPI's seventh annual Script Competition. The interaction was not a fully staged production, as Eames and the WPI hope it will be one day, but that it took place at all is considered progress by the nonprofit, founded to "foster the development and production of plays written by women through educational outreach, workshops and readings." In general, more men still see their scripts produced than women, who get only about 12 percent of the action, according to Eames.

Directed by Kathleen Lindsey, three actors on book brought Eames' drama to an audience for the first time — about 25 people — accompanied by light and sound effects in the intimate Goldman Theater. We entered the strange world of a husband (Stephen DeWoody) and wife (Kate Singleton) holed up in a hotel after a cataclysmic ice storm, with only a nearby Starbucks and a few baristas to scavenge from. George is a seriously blocked writer who spends his time teaching to students unseen; Maria's an ornithologist waiting for signs of feathered life while she sips bourbon. Time feels like it's running out, and the ghost of an obscure writer (Marcie Schwalm) visits George to help him before it's too late.

Lindsey and Eames were available to the audience at the post-performance talk-back session. The reactions from the audience are the gold Eames will take home, providing her with fodder to inform further revisions. Meanwhile, WPI members continue to meet monthly and soon will open the call for scripts for the next competition.

— Lindy T. Shepherd

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